Collecting basketball jerseys has landed Dee Casey in some awkward situations—like the time he found himself driving out to Sandy to meet a stranger who claimed to be a former Rose Garden security guard.
"I met him at a Whole Foods, in the yogurt aisle," Casey says. "I was wearing a jersey and he said, 'Hey, I've got some jerseys at home.' I hear that all the damn time. But I gave him my card, he gave me a call, and I was pleasantly surprised. You end up taking a lot of trips out to the middle of nowhere for nothing, but it paid off for once."
His reward? A jersey once worn by James "Hollywood" Robinson, a former Blazers shooting guard whose career can charitably be described as "inauspicious."
For Casey, though, no player is too obscure not to chase down, even if it means doing something that might seem a little sketchy to get it. Jersey-hunting has been an almost single-minded obsession of his since high school. He checks eBay and other sources multiple times per day, and even his mother knows that if she passes a promising yard sale, she better stop and send him some reconnaissance. He's amassed around 250 individual pieces, a portion of which he sells at eastside retro sportswear boutique Laundry, where he works as the store's general manager.
Casey says he started collecting jerseys as a way to get closer to the game he loves. But in the world of sports memorabilia, jerseys don't have the same culture around them as trading cards or sneakers. While most fans probably have one or two hanging in their closet, hardcore collectors are rare, and widely spread out. According to Casey, it's a mostly solitary pursuit.
"There's no big conventions. There's not this whole community," he says. "You're by yourself until you find other people, and even then, you don't get to become friends with people over it. You feel no one else does this."
He's not alone, though. Along with Casey, WW sought out other Portland-area jersey-philes and asked them about their most prized finds.
General manager at Laundry PDX, 26
Total jerseys in collection: 250
First jersey owned: Dirk Nowitzki, #41 Dallas Mavericks
James "Hollywood" Robinson, #26 Portland Trail Blazers (game-worn)
How much did you pay? "I bought this from a guy who used to work security at the Rose Garden. He made me buy a pair of Brian Grant's shoes in the package deal."
Who is he? An early '90s shooting guard so mediocre that the "Hollywood" nickname has to be an inside joke.
What's the story? "He was in the dunk contest—kind of a nobody, though. He was not anything special, and I don't believe he actually made a dunk in the dunk contest. But gorgeous jersey."
Scottie Pippen, #8 1996 U.S. Olympic Team
How much did you pay? "I didn't pay much."
Who is he? The guy obsessive Michael Jordan stans feel a weird need to discredit to prop up their hero even more.
What's the story? "It's from such a specific time. The Olympics don't play that many games, so it's really specific. It's sublimated on the back, which is rare in itself. Typically, you get Reggie Miller or whatever for this team, but you rarely see the Pippen, and when you do it's $500."
Terrell Brandon, #7 Milwaukee Bucks (game-worn)
How much did you pay? $120
Who is he? Portland kid made good who led Grant High to a state championship in 1988, owns a barber shop on Northeast Alberta and did some stuff in the NBA, too.
What's the story? "Gorgeous color. Starter had license to a couple teams, and a lot of those teams are bullshit—a lot of Knicks and Patrick Ewing. You rarely see the Bucks. And he's a local dude. He's got a barber shop, and he's always doing something with music. And just the purple and green. You can't match nothing with it. It's impossible to fucking wear, but it's dope."
ESPN writer, 33
Total jerseys in collection: 50
First jersey owned: Shaquille O'Neal, #32 Orlando Magic
Ricky Davis, #31 Los Angeles Clippers (game-worn)
How much did you pay? $210
Who is he? A classic journeyman gunner most famous for once trying to manufacture a triple-double by chucking up a rebound to himself.
What's the story? "When I first moved to Portland, I had a makeshift club in my basement called the Tricky Ricky Lounge, in honor of Ricky Davis. There was a retractable beer pong table from the roof, a corner couch and a champagne room. Ricky was renowned during his days in the league as one of the biggest party animal players ever. If ever there was a black hole of a player, it was probably him."
DeShawn "Stephenson," #92 Atlanta Hawks
How much did you pay? While working for sneaker site Sole Collector, DePaula struck a deal with Adidas to send him jerseys in exchange for write-ups on the blog.
Who is he? LeBron James' original arch-nemesis, noted for having a tattoo of Abraham Lincoln on his throat and installing an ATM in his kitchen.
What's the story? "Eight or 10 teams a year, Adidas was doing the retro nights for Hardwood Classics. As soon as they announced the set, they had the fireball Suns and then the big Hawk, all the awesome '90s graphic ones. The way we used to do it, we'd send an email with the team, the size, the player and the number. For some reason, I thought DeShawn spelled it 'ph,' so that's what I put in the email. When it arrived, I was looking up photos of him in the jersey and realized I totally botched his last name."
Andray Blatche, #7 Washington Wizards
How much did you pay? See above.
Who is he? One of the Three Stooges of the late-2000s Wizards, along with JaVale McGee and Nick "Swaggy P" Young.
What's the story? "I've just always gravitated toward the knuckleheads of the league. The one who stood out as the biggest knucklehead of them all was probably Andray Blatche. In the spirit of Ricky Davis, he was gunning for a triple-double at times and was super-thirsty. He was perennially out of shape and notorious for doing things he shouldn't be doing, like taking threes when it wasn't his shot. Me personally, I thought that was awesome."
Flooring installer, 23
Total jerseys in collection: 90
First jersey owned: Wesley Matthews, #2 Portland Trail Blazers
Rasheed Wallace, #30 Portland Trail Blazers
How much did you pay? $10 at Goodwill
Who is he? Uh, he's Rasheed Wallace. Who the hell are you?
What's the story? "I believe they wore those [gray jerseys] for one or two years. It's not a very common jersey to find. This one says 'Portland' across the front in cursive writing. It has pinstripe colors down the side of it. It's just one of those jerseys that's so clean and so elegant."
Marvin Williams, #24 Atlanta Hawks
How much did you pay? $60 at Laundry PDX
Who is he? A somewhat innocuous power forward, currently playing for the entirely innocuous Charlotte Hornets.
What's the story? "When I first started watching basketball, the Hawks still had Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, but I never liked the main guys. I liked the guys that did that nitty-gritty work, and Marvin Williams is one of those guys who did everything. If you wanted him to be a brute, he can be a brute. He can shoot the three ball, too. I wore that jersey to the airport and I got, like, 47 people commenting, like, 'Who's 24?' I'm like, 'It's Marvin Williams, yo!'"
Jason Richardson, #23 Golden State Warriors
How much did you pay? $22 at a Portland thrift store
Who is he? High-flying hero of the Warriors' wilderness years.
What's the story? "Before there was Steph Curry, there was Jason Richardson. I'm not a huge Golden State Warriors fan, but there's something about that burnt orange, though. Even now, when they do retro-jersey nights, they never wear those jerseys. I wore that jersey at [Spokane Hoopfest] this year, and a lot of people were like, 'That jersey's flashy,' and I'm like, 'That's the point, man.'"